BUILDING A LIMITLESS AND FREE MARKETING RESOURCE
After over 15 years of working with business owners about every aspect of their business, late in 2012 I defected from a successful career as a business coach to specialise in marketing – specifically, low cost and database marketing.
So before I explain the many ways that having a database can help your business, it is probably relevant that I tell you why.
WHY I LOVE MARKETING
For many the most terrifying aspect of running your own business is not feeling in control –that at any time the omnipresent “market” will desert you and people will stop knocking on the door. In the current climate, there are millions of business owners right now feeling sorry for themselves and waiting for the “bad market” to pick up.
I firmly believe – and have seen over and over – that there is enough for everyone who puts their hand up. For every 10 people bunkering down and saving money in a downturn, there is one skating through, with their marketing turned to full volume, picking up the work. This is equally true for household name franchises, where if you aren’t doing your own local area marketing, the national branding is only working half as well as it should.
No marketing means you have no control. You are solely reliant on the type and volume of work that your franchisor or people referring you decide to send you. It means that your business is worth less, as it doesn’t have a way of self-generating work. Instead of focusing on the high value services or goods that you would prefer to sell, having no marketing leaves you running ragged chasing every two-dollar job that lands in your lap.
Marketing puts you in control. It allows you to say “actually I will have some extra business this month” and make it happen. And thankfully there are many low-cost strategies to choose from that also mean you can keep your marketing – or ideally increase it – even when times are tough.
A LOW COST MARKETING STRATEGY
One of the best low cost strategies is Database Marketing. It costs you pennies. It gets your team, your clients and your community involved in your business. And with many industries (especially trades and B2B), it produces the highest hit rate of any marketing for near-on the lowest cost.
This is because people on your databases have agreed to be in regular communication with you. So, as you can imagine, talking directly to 2,000 people who all know and like your business nets a much better result than throwing advertising at 20,000 who don’t know you from Adam.
What does having a database (or databases) do for your business? You can control the “tap” while you’re running it – tap on, more clients, tap off, no clients. A potential buyer will see huge value in being able to immediately turn that tap on once they take over. And you will keep your customers and key referrers close and well-informed, leading to more sales more often.
HOW TO BUILD A DATABASE
When I start working with a client I aim to get their database up to the magic 500-1,000 needed to make it ‘responsive’ – i.e. when we send an offer out at least one person will take it up. Any customer details you have will give you a head start – I have used old receipts, quotes and even shop layby books to kick things off. Some franchisees, like Jim’s Group, field client calls for you, meaning that they have automatically built you a comprehensive database since the day you started (lucky you).
If you don’t have a database to begin with, collecting details at point of sale is the traditional method (a hamper or other competition entry will do, if you can’t have a staff member physically collecting emails).
You can also begin by collecting names at an event or trade show, or by partnering up with another business and running some joint marketing or a host beneficiary.
Another clever way of collecting database is to require people to enter their email address to download something of value from your website (such as a ‘top 10 tips’ sheet - one client of mine has collected over 5,000 members from just this strategy).
Some franchises have rules around who can use the client database and how, so check with yours before you start. If you can’t stockpile or use customer details for some reason, no matter, I’ll talk about other types of databases below that will be just as helpful.
Store your details – at the minimum you need a first name and email address – in any number of ways (data is usually easily transferable anyway) – such as excel, a specialised CRM program or online in your email newsletter system (try programs such as Constant Contact for around $15 per month).
HOW TO CONTACT THEM
An email newsletter is an obvious and easy way to stay in touch with your people. A couple of tips however – send out the sort of newsletter that you yourself would be happy to receive (and actually read). This usually means make it short and snappy, offer something of interest for everyday life, not just a sales pitch - but having said that, a special members-only offer never goes astray (and means you can get an actual ROI for your efforts). An occasional heads up about a sale is also fine (a retail client of mine has doubled her sale takings since introducing an email newsletter).
Beyond that however, there are many other ways to keep in touch with and be of value to your various databases. Group SMS, letters, phone calls and invitations to participate in competitions, surveys and ‘in person’ events are just some of these. In particular, clients of mine very successfully use the ‘VIP Night’ strategy to net between a week and a month’s worth of sales in just one night.
TYPES OF DATABASES
Any group of people with whom you would like to speak constitutes a database. All of my clients have multiple databases, including not only clients but also a variety of referring businesses or affiliates. For example, a printing business might have a database of clients but also one of graphic designers and another of accountants and business coaches (who are connected to many more potential clients).
Within your client database it is also valuable to denote categories or industries. A client in the food industry has not only separated their clients into ‘corporate’ and ‘domestic’, they have broken down the corporate into industries (pharmaceutical, legal etc). A white collar business (a law firm) has three databases – clients, affiliates and presentation contacts. Another in personal services has a client database which also flags a handful of ‘gold’ clients (people who refer well and often). This type of segmentation makes sending relevant and compelling offers so much easier.
It is a good idea to contact people with nothing more than valuable or interesting information most of the time. However, when you want to use your database to turn the tap on sales you will need to make your members an offer. This should be something that makes them feel special and in-the-know, and it should have some urgency (this month only!) or scarcity (first 20 only!) attached to it. Make sure though that you are gaining sales and not just giving away your profits. In every case, it is much better for you to increase your value (get X get Y free) instead of a cash discount.
A FINAL NOTE
Used with integrity, database marketing should be just another way of talking to your customers, without waiting for them to visit. Often, people might believe you are too busy for extra business or referrals - this is a way of saying ‘we are here, keep em coming!’ Keep in line with your business ethics but don’t make the mistake of thinking that if you are too busy to read a newsletter all your clients are (they aren’t all silly/brave enough to be business owners). People will be genuinely appreciative of your contact and reminders – and I have yet to be proven wrong.
Katherine is a former General Manager for the Jim’s Group, with over 17 years’ experience in franchising and trades. She has also been a successful ActionCOACH (#14 in the world) and runner-up Franchise Woman of the Year in 2010.
Graceful Solutions is a marketing company specialising in no-cost, low-cost and local area marketing. Their team of eight consultants offer services including websites, database marketing and low-cost strategies to engage existing customers and find new ones.
For further information contact Katherine at: